Attractive, affordable and reliable: it's no wonder BMWs are so popular. But which of the firm's many models are the best? Rob Griffin gives his opinion.
BMWs are hugely popular thanks to attractive styling, affordability and reliability.
Drive for longer than five minutes and the chances are you'll see at least a dozen of the German cars.
If Ferrari and Porsche are the kings and queens, then BMW cars are their second cousins – still important but more accessible.
Ah, the BMW M3. There have been plenty of M3 badged models over the last 30 years but this is the original, the one that placed BMW's high-performance brand within reach of the public. It is the forerunner for which all the rest have to be thankful. Although at first glance it looked similar in styling to the standard E30 3-Series, a closer inspection revealed just about everything was different, including being lower, having wider wings and a stiffened suspension. This was a real race car in disguise.
Regarded as the first BMW super sports car, the dramatic looking M1 is absolutely timeless and wouldn't look out of place if it was being launched today. Originally, BMW were due to build the technical components, with Lamborghini supplying the body and chassis. However, the Italian supercar manufacturer's withdrawal from the project meant the final product was an amalgamation of work from a number of suppliers. Sought after among motoring purists, the best examples have sold for more than US $260,000 (about £155,000) at auction.
BMW 2002 tii
The 1970s is often described as a decade that style forgot, but while that may be true of the clothes and the music the same criticism certainly can't be levelled at cars such as BMW's eye-catching 2002 tii. Without doubt this is one of the definitive cars in the company's illustrious history and widely credited for establishing its reputation in the fledgling area of compact, sporty sedans. The good news is you can still get your hands on one for less than £10,000.
To the 1950s for the next one on our list: the beautiful 507. Amazingly, this car was designed in less than a year and is a masterpiece. Owning one meant you were in a rather exclusive club as only 252 were ever made. With large parts being put together by hand, this sleek, sporty looking roadster made its debut at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show and its muscular appeal has certainly stood the test of time. In recent years, surviving examples have sold at auction for a staggering US $2.4m (about £1.4m).
What on earth is an electric car doing on a list of all-time great BMWs? It's a fair question, but the fact is that the company has been a key innovator over the years and its attempt at gaining a foothold in this fledgling market appears to be succeeding. The little i3 has won widespread praise for its handling, driving position and visibility, not to mention the fact it can still propel you from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds - barely enough time for you to consider how kind you're being to the planet. Being green still comes at a price – north of £30,000 in this case. However, the little car has impressed so far with BBC motoring show Top Gear noting that BMW had put original thinking into "almost every part of its design and engineering".